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Chronic stress is known to influence dietary choices, and stressed families often report poorer diet quality; however, little is known about how family-based stress is linked with dietary patterns that promote inflammation. This study investigated associations between family-based stress and the inflammatory potential of the diet among preschool-aged children and their parents. Parents (n = 212 mothers, n = 146 fathers) and children (n = 130 girls, n = 123 boys; aged 18 months to 5 years) from 241 families participating in the Guelph Family Health Study were included in the analyses. Parents reported levels of parenting distress, depressive symptoms, household chaos, and family functioning. The inflammatory potential of parents' and children's diets was quantified using the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII(R)), adjusted for total energy intake (i.e., the E-DIITM). E-DII scores were regressed onto family stress using generalized estimating equations to account for shared variance among family clusters. Compared to those in homes with low chaos, parents in chaotic homes had significantly more proinflammatory dietary profiles (beta = 0.973; 95% CI: 0.321, 1.624, p = 0.003). Similarly, compared to those in well-functioning families, parents in dysfunctional families had significantly more proinflammatory dietary profiles (beta = 0.967; 95% CI: 0.173, 1.761, p = 0.02). No significant associations were found between parents' E-DII scores and parenting distress or depressive symptoms, nor were any associations found for children's E-DII scores. Results were not found to differ between males and females. Parents in chaotic or dysfunctional family environments may be at increased risk of chronic disease due to proinflammatory dietary profiles. Children's dietary inflammatory profiles were not directly associated with family stress; however, indirect connections through family food-related behaviours may exist. Future research should prioritize elucidating these mechanisms.

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APA Citation

Hruska, V., Shivappa, N., Hébert, J. R., Duncan, A. M., Haines, J., & Ma, D. W. L. (2021). Associations between Family-Based Stress and Dietary Inflammatory Potential among Families with Preschool-Aged Children. Nutrients, 13(5), 1464.